Update from the Environment Agency
To receive the above verbal update to include an update on fowls from an EA aspect.
David Bedlington from the EA gave an update on the River Thames Scheme. He explained that developments on the RTS had been relatively quiet while funding for the scheme was sought. The basis of a funding solution was now being worked through and was being led by Surrey County Council. The government’s sponsorship group met on the week commencing 22 July 2019 and said they were satisfied and confident that the scheme should progress, so it was now progressing at speed. An outline business case had been submitted, and this would go to the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and then to the Treasury for approval. At this stage the scheme would need to demonstrate that full funding was in place. The Chairman commented that following a meeting between Councillor Simon Dudley, Tim Oliver (Leader, Surrey County Council) and himself, a paper would be presented to both Surrey and RBWM Cabinets. It is likely that this paper will go to the RBWM’s Cabinet on 26th September. The Flood Liaison Group would then be informed of the outcome.
David Bedlington explained that the next phase was to complete the technical work which needed to be ramped up again and then enter a phase of public engagement prior to submission of a planning application in Summer 2021. He anticipated a couple of rounds of public consultation with the planning submission planned for two years from now. David Bedlington stated pre-planning application advice had been received and that helped to work through any potential issues and address impacts prior to submission. He then confirmed that the scheme was still going through internal EA approval, then it would go to DEFRA and then onto the Treasury for approval which allowed more scrutiny earlier in the process which the project would benefit from. David Bedlington confirmed the project was still in the approval stage and the funding was not quite finalised at this point in time.
David Bedlington indicated that he had some presentations which illustrate the likely timeline of progress of the project that he was able to circulate to the Forum. If everything went really smoothly construction could start as early as 2023, depending on any public enquiry and ministerial approval. The build period was estimated at four to five years and the EA were engaging with the market as it was a bespoke project and needed a bespoke procurement exercise. David Bedlington confirmed there would be no Development Consent Order for the scheme, and that consultation in the form of public events would take place prior to submission of the formal planning application as the EA wanted real engagement on the project. Councillor Beer commented that the public would want to see traffic management in place during construction. David Bedlington indicated that all three channels would be completed at the same time to keep construction as swift as possible.
Dick Scarf asked if there would be any liaison or negotiations with Heathrow due to the third runway. David Bedlington responded that the two schemes were totally separate schemes. The EA were however looking at how the third runway works could be a potential risk to the RTS (in terms of potential impact on the construction market). The Chairman stated Staines, Datchet, Wraysbury and Horton would suffer massively due to the construction traffic. David Bedlington stated there was also a proposed gas pipeline being built from Southampton to Heathrow so the area could be very busy.
Brianne Valley from the EA indicated that there were two pieces of strategic work regarding flood risk management that needed to be carried out; A Thames Flood Risk Management Plan (as required by the Flood Risk Regulations 2009), a collation of all measures the Risk Management Authorities took to alleviate flooding and also, a River Basin Management Plan. Consultations would take place over the next couple of years. Users could view a map to see what measures were available to them in their areas, all the information would be made available in one place.
Brianne Vally confirmed that a decision had not been made regarding the transfer of the Environment Agency’s navigation role to the Canal and River Trust and that she would try to find out more information on this issue. David Bedlington stated the transfer over of responsibility to the Canal and River Trust was not an EA decision, it was a government decision. The EA tried to provide information to the government to advise on any changes.
Councillor Larcombe stated there was a problem with the Wraysbury Drain and the recently completed repair of the weir on the Horton Drain. Following repair of the weir water would get as far as the dive centre where there was a bridge. Gravel had been allowed to build up in the watercourse at this point and would obstruct flow. He requested a leaflet about landowner’s responsibilities similar to an older publication prepared by the Environment Agency called Living on the Edge. Brianne Vally responded all the information on landowner’s responsibility was kept online. She offered to download the documentation and forward it to Parish Councillors and Ward Members for circulation. The Chairman stated he was happy to discuss that offline, outside of the meeting with Brianne Vally. Simon Lavin said he would also look into it as he was quite sure the Borough had also produced literature on landowner’s responsibilities for maintenance when living on the edge of the waterways.
v Action – The clerk to circulate the presentation on the likely timeline for progression of the River Thames Scheme to the Members of the Flood Liaison Group.
v Action – Brianne Vally to find any information on the possible transfer of responsibilities for navigation to the Canal and River Trust and to circulate prior to the next meeting.